The Church in China and the Lancaster Family

Installment 8 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China from 1998-2018

by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate

In the last installment of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China I spoke about the development of the Mini-Library Project, a proposal to provide thousands of lay leaders serving the Church in China with biblical, theological, and pastoral resources for their ministry. It was approved by the Presbyterian Women of the PC(USA) at the end of 2001, and we received over $175,000 from their Birthday Offering. The Outreach Foundation raised a similar amount of money over the next few years from within our constituency. A key family with a long history of connection to The Outreach Foundation played a pivotal role, and this is their story.

Trustees Marj Carpenter and Elizabeth Lancaster in Harbin, September 2000

Trustees Marj Carpenter and Elizabeth Lancaster in Harbin, September 2000

A year before the Mini-Library Project was developed, a trustee of The Outreach Foundation, Elder Elizabeth Lancaster, had participated in one of our trips to China (see Installment 6). Ms. Lancaster had been so touched by her time in China that she actually was thinking about quitting her job and preparing for missionary service in China. Unfortunately, in the winter of 2002, Elizabeth contracted influenza and died suddenly.

In their grief, the Lancaster family wished to honor Elizabeth’s love for China, and they chose the Mini-Library Project of The Outreach Foundation as the recipient of gifts in memory of her. Because Elizabeth Lancaster’s death occurred shortly after the announcement that Presbyterian Women had adopted the Mini-Library Project as one of their Birthday Offering recipients, this project was becoming widely known at the denominational level and within the “Outreach family.”

Lynne Quinn with Rev. Sun Head of Heilongjiang Bible School, Harbin

Lynne Quinn with Rev. Sun Head of Heilongjiang Bible School, Harbin

In the earlier blog I mentioned above, Elizabeth was the daughter of one of the founders of The Outreach Foundation, the Rev. Dr. Jack Lancaster. Not only was Dr. Lancaster a former pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Houston, he was currently one of its Parish Associates. As such, many members of that 5000-member church responded generously in memorials to support the Mini-Library Project.

Because the Lancaster family were also personal friends of the leadership of The Outreach Foundation, we who were on staff wanted to honor their decision in a special way. We went to the family and invited them to send one from their family to China with us on our next trip so that they could see for themselves the church that had so impacted their daughter. The family chose a younger sister of Elizabeth, Lynne Lancaster Quinn, to be their representative.

Mrs. Lynn Quinn was a teacher and had to get permission to take off three weeks early in the 2002-2003 school year to be able to make the trip. She did so and joined our October 2002 trip which visited the most of the same places her sister had visited plus others. Lynne too was quite touched by the trip and wrote a letter about the impact of China as her sister had done two years earlier. Here it is in its entirety:

Lynne Quinn's letter.png
Jack and Helen Lancaster

Jack and Helen Lancaster

Lynne followed up her experience by becoming an advocate for the work of The Outreach Foundation in China in her Sunday School class, with official boards of First Presbyterian Church Houston, and in her wider circle of friends in the community. She brought her husband, Jimmy, the next time she went to China with us, and on three subsequent trips. The Quinns also hosted some of our Chinese friends from Harbin in their home on two occasions.

Lynne and Jimmy Quinn are among the many American Christians whose lives have been transformed by the Church in China, and they have given back to their Chinese friends by their strong advocacy for the Church in China. This is what we are about as a mission. Thanks be to God.

Jefferson Ritchie
Mission Advocate